By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti will hold the first round of its serially delayed presidential election on Nov. 20 to give time for people in areas of the country affected by Hurricane Matthew to recover enough to vote, the electoral council said on Friday.
The election repeats a first-round vote a year ago. The results were scrapped as widely fraudulent after the second-place finisher denounced them.
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The new vote, previously set for Oct. 9, was postponed when the Category 4 hurricane barreled through the southwestern part of the country. Villages were flattened, and newly homeless families filled schools that were to be used as polling stations.
Electoral council president Leopold Berlanger said it was important to ensure the legitimacy of the winning candidates by ensuring large sections of the population affected by the storm can still vote.
"We want to be able to organize elections in all regions for all citizens, especially at the presidential level, said Berlanger.
"We want to organize credible, transparent and democratic elections; we cannot organize elections that will be contested," he told a news conference. A second round runoff will be held on Jan. 29, he said.
The hurricane killed 1,000 people, according to a Reuters tally of deaths reported by local mayors. A central government tally put the number at 546, but that count takes longer to complete because officials must visit every village to confirm the dead.
The United Nations said 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and 200,000 were made homeless.
Sandra Honore, the U.N.’s Haiti envoy, said 70 percent or more of voting centers could have been affected by the hurricane in the two worst-hit departments of the country.
The hurricane is the latest entry in the saga of Haiti’s ill-fated elections.
In October 2015, Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin advanced to the second round. Moise was a political newcomer running under the banner of outgoing president Michel Martelly’s Haitian Party of Bald Heads. Celestin was better known, having participated in the 2010 election.
Celestin and other candidates denounced the election as fraudulent and protests led the second round to be scrapped. An investigation later found evidence of fraud and results of the first round were annulled.
Celestian and Moise are both running again in a crowded field of candidates.
In February, Martelly left office without an elected successor. An interim president, Jocelerme Privert, has led the country since then.
(Additional reporting by Makini Brice; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and David Gregorio)